As they confront dramatically reduced population and little prospect of significant near-term growth, several cities in the rust belt have turned to innovative tactics to put excess land to beneficial use. These measures include the creation of active land banks, downzoning for "green" uses such as urban agriculture, possible consolidation of population and abandonment of utility and public services, and installation of green infrastructure, such as stormwater retention and renewable power generation facilities, on publicly owned land. In the process, these cities face intriguing legal questions: What steps are needed to form an effective land bank? What is the liability of land banks for cleanup of contaminated properties? Are cities required to provide municipal services to unpopulated areas within their boundaries? In the unlikely event that a city uses eminent domain to relocate owners of sparsely-populated areas, what is “just compensation” for this action? What issues might arise with zoning land for less intensive uses such as urban farms? Some of the answers are emerging. For example, state authorizing legislation has been enacted to establish the type of active land bank successfully implemented in St. Louis, Cleveland, and other cities, and it appears that cities need not provide infrastructure and services throughout their land area, though they are best advised retain any rights of way or easements that may be needed in the event of future development. Other questions – both legal and practical - have yet to be fully answered, as rust belt cities lead the way in what might tentatively be called "The New Renewal" – a form of sustainable development that dovetails well with the policies of cities that seek to combat and adapt to climate change.
growth and development, land use planning, smart shrinkage, green use, urban agriculture, land banks, downzoning, Cleveland (Ohio), zoning, regulatory takings, shrinking cities, innovative reuse, regionalism, conservancies, legislative discretion, climate change mitigation
Place of Original Publication
Planning & Environmental Law
65 (5) Planning & Environmental Law (APA) 3 (2011)
LaCroix, Catherine J., "Urban Green Uses: The New Renewal" (2011). Faculty Publications. 60.